NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies reports of imminent league expansion, plus updates on Joe Thornton, Kimmo Timonen, Nathan MacKinnon, Daniel Alfredsson and more.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies league expansion is imminent.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies league expansion is imminent.

TSN.CA: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies reports the league will expand or that any franchises could be relocating.  Bettman also said a new director of player safety will be named before the start of the season, and he’s been in talks with the NHLPA regarding a future World Cup of Hockey tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league isn’t in any hurry to expand, but I believe it will happen over the next ten years. A World Cup of Hockey tournament is far more likely in the near future, especially if the NHL doesn’t participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

SPORTSNET.CA: Stephen Burtch cites advanced stats to make the case Joe Thornton wasn’t given a chance to succeed. He claims bad luck, not Thornton’s performance, was behind the Sharks stunning first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the 2014 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burtch makes a compelling case, but that won’t change the perception held by many fans and pundits that Thornton chokes in postseason play. 

PHILLY.COM: Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who will miss at least part of this season to blood clots, is making progress in his recovery.

 THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche sophomore forward Nathan MacKinnon is bigger, stronger and more explosive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That bodes well for MacKinnon, the 2014 NHL rookie of the year, to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

MLIVE.COM: Daniel Alfredsson needs another week or two to test his back before reaching a decision on returning with the Red Wings. Coach Mike Babcock, meanwhile, will talk contract extension this month with the Wings.

POST-GAZETTE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis (knee surgery) is awaiting medical clearance to return to action.

MIAMI HERALD: The Florida Panthers have signed 2014 first-overall pick Aaron Ekblad to a three-year entry-level deal.

NBC SPORTS: The Carolina Hurricanes have signed Joe Nieuwendyk as a pro scout and advisor.